Teachers Make 74 Cents Per Dollar Of Similarly Educated Workers. Is It Time For A $100K Minimum Salary?

Teachers Make 74 Cents Per Dollar Of Similarly Educated Workers. Is It Time For A $100K Minimum Salary?

Daniel Pink of the Washington Post wrote an Op Ed today titled, “Why not pay teachers $100,000 a year?” He looks at the pay disparity between teachers and professionals with similar education levels and considers the merits and challenges of a $100,000 minimum teacher salary.

He writes:

“For all the education fads of the past 50 years, researchers have found that what matters most for student learning — more than reducing class size or handing out iPads — is a high-quality teacher. One study by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues determined that students with effective teachers in fourth grade were more likely to attend and graduate from college as young adults and to earn more than their peers during their careers.

Some states and localities have attempted to address the compensation problem with complicated pay-for-performance schemes that award teachers bonuses hinged on student test scores. The results of those efforts have been iffy at bestscandalous at worst, said Barbara Biasi, a labor economist at Yale University. But her research has found that raising base pay for effective teachers, a simpler solution, deepens student learning and keeps good teachers on the job. Higher base pay also reduces dropout rates and narrows the achievement gap between White and Black students, as well as White and Hispanic students, according to other studies.

Raising teacher pay is also the rare 2024 policy proposal whose support spans the ideological divide. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation requiring a federal minimum teacher salary of $60,000 per year. Tennessee, led by Republican Gov. Bill Lee and an overwhelmingly Republican legislature, last year approved a law raising minimum teacher salaries in the state to $50,000 by 2026.

But those well-intentioned initiatives are “take two aspirin and call me in the morning” remedies. We need a defibrillator — a serious jolt to awaken the patient from a near-death experience. A $100,000 base salary would deliver that shock.

It would also jolt public budgets. Many ideas we’ll explore in this ‘Why Not?’ project would save money. This one is pricey.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation: If it requires about $35,000 per teacher just to raise average pay to six figures, and the United States employs more than 3 million public school teachers, the total cost would be north of $100 billion. Are you feeling defibrillated?”

For the full piece, visit The Washington Post here.

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